Though it’s the birthplace of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean, and boasts masters such as Mike Leigh and Ken Loach still working at the top of their game, there’s also a rich tradition in British cinema of what one could politely call the “sex comedy”. It began with the light smattering of smut provided by the “Confessions…” series of the 1970s and evolved into the slap-and-tickle blarney of the “Carry On…” movies. In the 2000s, we thought it’d reached the summit of what the fetid sub-genre could achieve with the risible “Sex Lives of the Potato Men,” “Lesbian Vampire Killers, ” and “Three And Out”. But now we have Jonathan Newman’s “Swinging With the Finkels,” the trailer for which promises the less-than-edifying spectacle of Jerry Stiller getting hit in the crotch with a vibrator.
For those interested, the film is about a frustrated middle-class couple who hilariously decide to go “swinging” with another couple to spice up their love life – a conceit that would have seemed dated in 1969, let alone 2011.
Lead Martin Freeman, a talented actor and a decent chap in his own right, has taken some of these paycheck gigs before in the fallow years between his breakthrough in the original version of “The Office” and his recent success in BBC’s “Sherlock” — take for example his turn in “The All Together” alongside the hysterically untalented “tough man” Danny Dyer – but we thought he might have progressed beyond this pap. Presumably it’s Freeman’s increased visibility in recent months that has led to this being released Stateside at all, as well as the incongruous presence of Mandy Moore and Melissa George, presumably there to “internationalize” the film in the way Carmen Electra was supposed to for shocking Britcom “I Want Candy,” or Harry Dean Stanton for supposed chucklefest “Alien Autopsy.” Whatever the case, it’s an embarrassment for all concerned, and something that should give pause to anyone who liberally chucks around phrases like “The British are coming.”
You might think that people in charge of financing these films would realise that U.K. and international audiences have had their fill of this sort of thing but, alas, the next British sex comedies to rear their ugly heads are “The Inbetweeners” and – even more bizzarely – “Run For Your Wife,” a sex farce featuring – who else? – Danny Dyer as a taxi-driving bigamist who enlists the help of Sir Cliff Richard, walking self-parody and British pantomime “star” Christopher Biggins and Australian wobble board player Rolf Harris to ameliorate his marital woes. The horror.
“Swinging with the Finkels,” which was ignored by audiences and summarily eviscerated by critics in its native U.K. is for whatever reason released in the U.S. on August 26th.